Introducing the minister of finance: A challenge to pastors

August 17th, 2015

800 and 12 percent.

800 is roughly how many times money is mentioned in the Bible, give or take several hundred depending on who is counting. (This site even says 2,000.) It is also one of the most mentioned topics in the Bible, including by Jesus himself.

12 percent is the number of born again, evangelical and non-evangelical Christians who are tithing, according to the most recently available report from the Barna Group on American donor trends. The Barna Group uses precise definitions for “born again” and “evangelical,” but 12 percent is the highest rate of tithing among the three dominant subgroups of Christians, the third group being not born-again and not evangelical, but aligned to some church.

The Bible and Jesus talk about money a lot and yet churches have at best 12 percent of their congregation tithing. Why is this when part of our Christian discipleship is to be good stewards of money and accountable to the church in how we use our money? We see a call to stewardship in Genesis 1:28 when God charges Adam and Eve with overseeing the earth and caring for it. We see it in chapters 2 and 4 in Acts, where a young community of believers shares possessions amongst themselves. We even know of a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, in Acts 5:3-5 who sold property and lied to the rest of the community about how much it sold for. They are both struck down dead after lying.

Can you imagine a church like this today? A church in which everyone’s financial needs are met as best as possible and church members are held accountable for their financial transactions? I'm not asking for people to actually be slain by the Holy Spirit, which is presumably what happened to Ananias and Sapphira, but I think you can understand what I'm getting at. (Actually, the Mormons are probably the closest to some version of this, as they have their own welfare system and they require members to fully tithe in order to stay in good standing with the church.) In our money-centric society, we don’t do as much as we could as the church, or much at all in many cases, to talk honestly and openly about money and to hold one another accountable for pursuing financial integrity.

If you want your church members to pray more, would you just tell them to pray more once a year during a Sunday sermon and leave it at that? Of course not. You would embed discussion about prayer in Bible studies, Sunday school, and small groups. You might hold a special training session or series of sessions to help church members understand more about and do different forms of prayer. You would talk with members about their prayer life and show them how to pray.

Why treat money and giving any differently? If Christians aren’t trained to handle their money well, how can you expect them to be good financial stewards?

It’s time for pastors and church leaders to truly equip their members with the financial knowledge and know-how needed to be good stewards of the financial resources we have been entrusted with. It’s time to start talking about money beyond just the one stewardship sermon a year. It’s also time for pastors to get a hold of their own financial habits in order to lead the way.

I’m issuing a challenge to all pastors and church leaders to start equipping their church members with the skills and resources needed to manage their personal finances well.

So how do we get there?

  1. Pastors and church leaders need training. In addition to coursework in Bible, theology, church history, and ethics, many seminaries have practical ministry classes on preaching, evangelism and worship. Financial stewardship - personal and for the church - should to be added as required coursework. Current pastors who are struggling with their own finances should seek counsel from a trusted financial advisor and go through a money management class. (See #3) 
  2. Churches need a “Minister of Finance.” Call it what you want, but churches should have a pastor, staff member or lay leader who is of personal integrity and financial good sense, available to teach, train, and coach members on the basics of managing money. This isn’t a call to have a CFP on staff, but someone with the financial skills and heart of a teacher who can help others with paying off debt, sticking to a budget, and saving. 
  3. Offer money management classes. Churches should regularly offer personal finance classes. There are excellent programs available, so getting one off the ground will not require developing your own curriculum. This would also be a great ministry to the community the church is a part of.

These aren’t “three quick tips” to change your church. These are three fundamental shifts for church leaders to address how they are preparing themselves and others to be better financial stewards. It will require an investment in time and resources, but the payoff — a church body becoming more financially secure — will be great when the call is issued to fund the mission of the church.

Lindsey Foster Stringer blogs at and is the author of “Mortgage Free in 3.”

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